Richard Dawkins is famous for his criticisms of organized religion.
In this new two-part video (see here and here), he moves on to examine spiritualists, faith healers, dowsers, homeopaths, astrologers and others who shun evidence in order to practice their unsubstantiated trades.
Much of this video is straightforward and succinctly edited. Dawkins restrains himself in his many conversations that appear in the video. He lets the quacks speak their own words and he allows them to put their best foot forward. Not that he doesn’t sometimes get in his digs, for instance with Deepak Chopra, who exhibits absolutely no understanding of quantum physics despite making millions on books in which he allegedly invokes principles of quantum physics.
The general themes are well stated in the video. We are disparaging real science and medicine yet giving unsubstantiated alternative medicine a free ride. Why? Because we are a society that is, more than ever, willing to value private feelings over evidence. Unfortunately, this makes us vulnerable to those who obscure the truth (e.g., charlatans like Chopra).
There’s this odd thing about alternative therapies: the more we look at them, the weaker they look. At least this is true for those who aren’t striving to believe in them. Why do we do this? Dawkins suggests that it is perhaps an evolutionary adaptation. We have evolved to see patterns even when they don’t exist. To be that other kind of animal, one that tends not to see patterns, would be too dangerous. That might actually be a predator behind that bush! For many of us, this over-tendency to see patterns has apparently generalized into a form of naiveté when it comes to alternative therapies.
To see Dawkins’ encounter with Chopra, go to Part II, about 19:00. To see the section on homeopathic medicine, see Part II at 23:00.
In the meantime, spiritualist book titles outnumber real science books 3-to-1. And one-fourth of the public believes in astrology, which serves as a sort of poster-boy for all of these shoddy disciplines: What makes them “work” is that they allow us to keep thinking that humans are the true center of the universe. All of the stars revolve around us. Therapies work because we want them to work. Ergo, no need for evidence. Just keep believing . . .